84% of Entrepreneurs Are Working Overtime, Here’s Why

According to The Alternative Board’s most recent Small Business Pulse Productivity Survey, 84% of business owners are working over 40 hours per week, and 1 in every 10 feels continuously overwhelmed by their responsibilities. Considering the majority of entrepreneurs don’t just get into business for the money, but also for the lifestyle, freedom, and flexibility, these numbers suggest that most business owners are not getting what they want out of their businesses.

So how can business owners better manage their productivity for improved work-life balance?

The first step is identifying time-wasting habits and then replacing them with proven time management practices. Fortunately, TAB’s May 2017 survey illuminated a lot of these productivity-sabotaging habits and found a few key solutions for how business owners can reclaim their time. 


1.  The average business owner spends 10+ hours a week in their inbox.
When asked about the breakdown of their day, business owners reported spending the most time on email – 25% of their time, in fact. That’s 5% more time than the surveyed entrepreneurs report spending on in-person meetings (20%) and customer service (15.7%) – two primary functions of business leadership.Considering these numbers, it’s not surprising that the surveyed business owners agree the best strategy for improving their productivity is scheduling finite time to answer email.According to a survey conducted by the University of British Columbia, three times a day is the sweet spot for checking your email. Use that scheduled time to delete anything unnecessary and respond to what needs to be responded to.Resist the urge to respond to emails as they arrive. “Switching between tasks requires realignment of attention and emotions, which can be taxing on the mind,” writes Samantha Murphy Kelley (@HeySamantha).If you fail to resist the urge to instantly respond to every message, you’ll be giving into the very dangerous “tyranny of the urgent” and wasting your time on day-to-day fires, rather than long-term strategy. Take it from time management expert Steve Davies, CEO of The Alternative Board Nassau: “It is essential to keep your priority items to a minimum. If everything is important, nothing is important and if you have too many top priorities there is a very real danger that none of them will get done.”

2.  If you’re going to spend 53% of your time on meetings, you better make them productive.
The average business owner spends 20% of their time on in-person meetings and 13% on phone/video conference calls — that’s nearly 55% of their workweek. While meetings are a critical function of business leadership, only 4% of the entrepreneurs surveyed believe their meetings are 100% productive.“Meetings are a necessary evil,” writes Bob Pothier (@Bob_Pothier), Director of Partners in Leadership. “How you manage your meetings says a lot about how you’re managing your organisation.”In order to stay productive and lose as little time as possible Pothier suggests starting every meeting on time, having an agenda, starting with a “culture moment” (i.e. telling a story or giving recognition), and ending the meeting with a “who’s-going-to-do-what-by-when” list.

3.  You can blame it on a hundred other things, but at the end of the day, your productivity boils down to your time management.
Business owners cite poor time management as the #1 productivity killer for their business (35%) — above poor communication (25%), personal problems (18%) and technology distractions (16%).Fortunately, the survey offered some tips for better managing your time. For example, the large majority of entrepreneurs (81%) feel most productive in the morning, with 87% opting to get the most important tasks out of the way first.“First thing in the morning your mind is clear, the office is quiet, and you haven’t gotten pulled into six different directions — yet,” writes Gina Trapani (@ginatrapani), author of Upgrade Your Life and founding editor of com“It’s your one opportunity to prioritise the thing that matters to you most before your phone starts ringing and your email inbox starts dinging. By knocking out something important on your to-do list before anything else, you get both momentum and a sense of accomplishment before 10 AM.”

4.  64% of entrepreneurs believe they could be delegating more responsibility.
39% of the business owners surveyed reported that paperwork is the #1 waste of their time, followed by manual labour (37%). If you are doing either of these tasks, there’s a good chance you are working below your pay grade and not delegating properly.“The biggest obstacle to successful delegation is the persistent urge to not delegate anything at all — or ever,” writes business consultant Larry Alton(@LarryAlton3). “Sometimes, it’s a point of pride for a boss to retain as much work as possible, but more often, it’s created from the mentality that your workers wouldn’t be able to handle it, or that they wouldn’t get it done the right way.Learn to overcome your fear of delegation, and you’ll feel an enormous sense of relief once you let go of the menial tasks that are preventing you from long-term planning and exploring development opportunities and keeping you glued to your desk chair day in and day out.

Work-life balance is not a mythical notion, but a very real possibility for entrepreneurs who are willing to devote a little extra time to planning and prioritising. Keep an eye out for the little things — like email, meetings, procrastination and those silly little administrative tasks — that add up to leech your hours away — hours that you could be spending with your family and friends.

If you’re among the 1 out of every 10 entrepreneurs that feel constantly overwhelmed by work, you may want to take a look at your time management practices. Its a common business challenge that our members tell their TAB Strategic Business Coach when the get started with TAB.  Getting an outside perspective is often the best way to start. The Alternative Board provides you with the unique opportunity to meet regularly with a board of fellow peer business owners who can help you overcome challenges, such as overworking and poor time management. To take advantage of TAB’s peer advisory model, find a local board and get in touch.


7 Ways to Improve Your Employee Induction Process

Engineer Training A Newly Hired Employee.

Is a structured new employee orientation process in place in your business, or does each new hire get a different experience on their first day? Many businesses “get” the value of a well-planned induction or onboarding experience, but others still play it by ear. They fail to understand the link between a quality orientation experience and prospects for long-term retention (which, after all, is the ultimate goal when any employee is hired).

Consider these eye-opening statistics:

  • Businesses lose up to 25% of new employees every year.
  • New hires can take as much as 12-18 months “to gain proficiency comparable to their tenured co-workers.”
  • Businesses employing a “standard onboarding process” see more than 50% greater productivity in their new hires.
  • More than 75% of new employees who achieve their first “official performance milestone” went through formal orientation training.

If your onboarding or induction process could use some fine-tuning, keep these key action steps in mind:

1. Put a documented plan in place. First impressions really do matter. If new hires go through what feels like a sloppy, disorganised and uninformative onboarding process, they’ll likely form negative opinions about the company they’re working for that never go away. To offset this impression, document a planned, step-by-step process that remains consistent, regardless of who’s been hired and who’s overseeing the orientation experience.

2. Get paperwork out of the way. Too many new hire programmes submerge the new employee in a swamp of paperwork, taking up precious hours on his or her first day that might be more efficiently used to bring that person “into the fold.” As much as possible, send HR and benefits-related paperwork to the new employee ahead of time, so necessary documentation can be at least partly completed before that first step into the workplace as a new employee.

3. Avoid overwhelming employees on their first day. It’s important to manage your expectations regarding an employee’s first day on the job. You want them up and working, but if you pile on too much information—or assign them a potentially difficult task—you risk losing their attention and motivation. “Employee retention is a marathon,” notes business consultant Larry Alton. “You don’t want to exhaust them on day one.”

4. Design a welcoming video. A brief, informative video will likely be a welcome change of pace during the onboarding process. Think of it as “selling” your company—that is, reinforcing the new hire’s belief that he or she made the right choice in accepting the position. Present a little about the company’s history, emphasise aspects of the culture you want to get them excited about, and include a welcome message from the CEO. It’s a significant first step in making people feel part of the organisation.

5. Choose your orientation language carefully. Every company has its own jargon, but there’s no reason new employees must be versed in it on their first day at work. Be clear in all the language used during the onboarding process, avoiding technical terms and inside lingo no one can be expected to understand. It’s okay to introduce a couple of key phrases worth knowing, but for the most part, lay out the path ahead in language everyone can easily grasp.

6. Point the way towards additional resources. Most new hires will want to learn more about the company and its culture, just not all at once. Compile a list of resources, links on the company website, etc., and encourage individuals to find out more about their new workplace environment. Don’t make them waste time at home trying to locate materials that will help them better fit in.

7. Finally, give new employees something they can take home after their first day. Chances are, you offer branded items to customers—why not to new employees as well? Put together a welcome bag of these items, a sign of your appreciation for their first day of work. Carefully selected “branded swag,” while seemingly small, “encourages a great sense of welcome and belonging to your new hire.”

Want more advice on employee recruitment and retention? Find out if a TAB Board is right for you!


Enhance Your Employee’s Productivity Through Office Design

Open Concept Home Office Space with Eclectic Furnishings in Mode

When was the last time you thought about changing the design of your workplace? If you feel there’s potential for greater productivity among your employees, take a close look at how your office or workspace is presently configured. This design might just be limiting employee engagement or participation in ways that affect everyone throughout the organisation.

To enhance productivity and minimise employee burnout, keep these design options in mind:

Explore the open space option. It’s not right for every business, but many companies have adopted the open space concept for office design. Eliminating cubicles and private offices and replacing them with workstations in an open area often facilitates greater interaction and collaboration among employees—not to mention potential cost reductions in utilities, construction, office equipment, etc. This approach can be particularly beneficial for departments that rely on employee creativity to solve operational and/or marketing issues.

Look at alternative seating arrangements. There is no inherent reason employees must be anchored to a traditional desk/chair seating arrangement. Many businesses are exploring the use of stand-up desks or so-called “walking desks,” that enable workers to stand in place or stroll about as part of their working day. For many of us, it’s far healthier to stand while working, rather than sit for hours in one place.

Focus on collaboration. Workplace designs that effectively promote collaboration can result in new perspectives for nagging customer-service problems and/or opportunities to brainstorm fresh ideas for product upgrades and other innovations.

“Creating paths for chance meetings, including nooks, and designing agile, unique workspaces are solutions that designers say promote collaboration, creativity, and productivity in the modern office,” notes Fast Company. When people gather to work on a problem—rather than trying to come up with solutions on their own—great things can happen.

Offer employees a choice about workplace design. Obviously, employees will express differing preferences for an ideal workplace environment. Within reason, look for opportunities to offer them choices about office set-ups—stand-up or reconfigurable desks, reliable ventilation, natural lighting, tweaks in office temperature, etc.—and emphasise the importance of making people comfortable while they work. Imposing mandatory workspace design changes is a less effective approach and can trigger negative feelings among employees.

Reduce the noise factor. Wherever people congregate, there’s bound to be more noise than usual. Again, some employees may thrive on that background hum, while for others it’s an intolerable distraction. Here are some factors to include in your “sound-friendly” strategies:

  • Look for office furniture, partitions, and cabinets that incorporate noise reduction as part of their features.
  • Buy equipment (printers, copy machines, etc.) that operate at a low level of sound.
  • Install carpets or vinyl flooring—as opposed to ceramic or hardwood options—that minimise the sounds of footsteps (employees situated nearest established office pathways will thank you for this!).
  • Store office supplies in an area away from the workspace, so people aren’t distracted by others searching through supplies for the box of specialised paper clips they like.

Don’t forget the privacy factor. Even in an open, collaborative and high-functioning workspace, there’s still a need for privacy at times. Some design experts advise placing small nooks near social gathering areas, so people can step aside and communicate further on a particular topic if they so desire. It’s also important for employees to have a private area to make conference or video calls. Small “private zones” should be an essential element of any comprehensive workspace redesign.



Are You Choosing Chores?

Anson Thompson

Think about the time you wish you had to spend time with your kids (or your spouse, or even yourself). Do you wish you could attend their events, play with them and enjoy time doing fun things? Many of us are busy enough at work as it is. If we are also doing work on our home—painting, mowing or other chores which could be done by others—you are spending time away from doing things you wish you could do with loved ones.

What is that time worth? It’s likely more valuable than what your own hourly rate is. Ask yourself if it makes more sense or is justifiable to pay someone else to perform chores so that you can do the family things you want. If it makes sense to outsource these tasks, do so without guilt. Remember, we won’t be on our deathbed wishing we had mowed the lawn more often!


You Can Go. Really.

Karl Siebrecht

There are graveyards full of people who thought they were indispensable.

When you are going to be gone from your role or company, prioritise what absolutely has to be done by considering timing and risk. Document how those tasks are to be accomplished. Ensure the people to whom you delegate can complete the task, and then set that one aside. Don’t procrastinate and don’t stress!